The Australian-wide company had invested in a new and highly modernised regional distribution centre (RDC). Key to the growth and development of new RDC was a recent acquisition of a distribution company.
The acquisition and merger of the new business and the opening of the new RDC did not proceed smoothly. There were clear barriers between different groups within the workforce. Industrial relations disputes occurred regularly, and employee turnover was at more than 50%, in the first year. The RDC was identified as the worst performing centre in Australia. It was clear to the RDC Management that this critical to improve on. There was a need for rapid turnaround and realignment of the RDC teams.
People Solutions was engaged by the RDC Management to deliver a transformation solution. A period of intensive team coaching began involving many workshops over a 3-month period. There were 25 team leaders and supervisors participating in the program.
The following 4 Step process outline was used:
- Initial workshop – It was clear that the group was sceptical and not engaged in the process. Rapport was built quickly with the group using a tension breaking icebreaker. People Solutions then facilitated a workshop where ground rules were set for how the group would work together in the future. The group identified its shared intent, and issues and opportunities for the RDC were discussed. The engagement of the supervisor had started with the encouragement and guidance of their Coach.
- Cross functional teams worked on a few projects that the group felt were of priority. These projects were reviewed during later workshops. The adaptive work involved the Coach challenging the group – testing norms, behaviours, habits, assumptions and opinions. It was clear that there were many individual and team behavioural changes required. It was the balance between the cross-functional teams working efficiently on their projects, and team members learning to adapt and demonstrate effective team behaviour.
- Team Coaching approach involved the principles of adult learning, with exercises designed to build trust, develop shared core values, improve communication styles, and appreciate the importance of positive feedback.
- Business performance and productivity metrics were completed daily. Targets were set by management in consultation with the group. The work teams received regular feedback about their performance. Short-term wins were recognised and celebrated within the business.
The RDC group, under the leadership of the engaged team leaders and supervisors, had a remarkable turnaround and were recognised within the business as the top performers in respect to productivity. National managers, who wanted to gain an understanding of what happened in turning this RDC around in less than 100 days, came and observed a team coaching session.
On a local level, the reward and recognition happened with a social event where everyone involved signed a large banner showing the RDC’s shared intent statement and core values.
On a national level, representatives of the RDC attended the company’s National Conference and gave a presentation to 5000 delegates on how the transformation to sustained success occurred.
Key lessons from this case study include:
- A key success factors was being able to quickly build rapport and trust between the employees and the Coach.
- The use of cross functional teams drove cultural change and business improvement.
- The focus on the balance between technical challenges (team performance) and adaptive work (team behaviour) significantly contributed to achieving the above results.
- The advantage of using action learning to aid in identifying appropriate behaviour.
People Solutions won the WA Division of the Australian Human Resource Institute Awards (AHRI) and was recognised as a Finalist for the National AHRI Awards, for its role in the project.
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